If so, you may have had an ocular migraine. When you hear the word “migraine,” you probably think of a painful headache, typically worse than an everyday headache. About 37 million people in the United States alone suffer from these intense headaches. However, despite the similar name, ocular migraines don’t always have anything to do with head pain.
This phenomenon can be a little confusing, because the same term is often used to mean different things, some of which are more serious. Let’s take a look at each of the three conditions the term is commonly associated with.
This type of ocular migraine usually involves a widening blurry spot in your vision, surrounded by bright, flickering lights. Visual disruptions could be the only symptoms, but sometimes they are accompanied by problems with other senses, speech, or motor skills. The effect can be very disorienting, but it should only last a few minutes to half an hour before going away on its own.
Painless ocular migraines might be alarming the first time they happen, but they are usually harmless. If one happens while you’re driving, pull over until it passes. If possible, lie down and relax until it goes away, and it’s worth scheduling an eye exam just to make sure nothing else is going on.
Sometimes the same visual disruptions can accompany a migraine headache, usually between the premonitory and peak pain phases of the migraine. This occurs in roughly 20 percent of individuals who suffer from migraines.
If you experience these types of migraines, see a doctor if you haven’t already. Also be on the lookout for migraine triggers, such as sudden bright light, stress, and certain foods. Oral contraceptives and smoking can be triggers as well.
The most dangerous (but also the rarest) thing “ocular migraine” could refer to is a retinal migraine. A person who has experienced other migraine symptoms could experience repeated, temporary bouts of diminished vision or blindness in one eye. Be sure to see an optometrist or doctor right away if you experience a retinal migraine.
No matter what kind of ocular migraine you’re experiencing, we strongly encourage you to come see us so that we can make sure there isn’t a more serious underlying cause. If you have any other questions about ocular migraines, we would be happy to answer them. This phenomenon can be especially frightening if you don’t know what it is, but we’re here to put those fears to rest!